Copyright and Economic Viability: Evidence from the Music Industry

Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 17.4: 696-721 (2020)

U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 20-5

26 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2020 Last revised: 25 Nov 2020

See all articles by Kristelia Garcia

Kristelia Garcia

University of Colorado Law School

James Hicks

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law; University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Center for Law, Business and the Economy

Justin McCrary

Columbia University - Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: December 2020

Abstract

Copyright provides a long term of legal excludability, ostensibly to encourage the production of new creative works. How long this term should last, and the extent to which current law aligns with the economic incentives of copyright owners, has been the subject of vigorous theoretical debate. We investigate the economic viability of content in a major creative industry—commercial music—using a novel longitudinal dataset of weekly sales and streaming counts. We find that the typical sound recording has an extremely short commercial half-life—on the order of months, rather than years or decades—but also see evidence that subscription streaming services extend the period of economic viability. Strikingly, though, we find that decay rates are sharp even for blockbuster songs, and that the patterns persist when we approximate weekly revenue. Although our results do not provide an estimate of the causal effect of copyright on incentives, they do put bounds on the problem, and suggest a misalignment between the economic realities of the music industry and the current life-plus-seventy copyright term in the United States.

Keywords: copyright, intellectual property, empirical legal studies, law and economics

Suggested Citation

Garcia, Kristelia and Hicks, James and McCrary, Justin, Copyright and Economic Viability: Evidence from the Music Industry (December 2020). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 17.4: 696-721 (2020), U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 20-5, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3528564 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3528564

Kristelia Garcia

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80304
United States

James Hicks (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Center for Law, Business and the Economy ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720-7200

Justin McCrary

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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